Wall Street Journal critic embarrassingly mistakes Dev Patel for Kal Penn

Mike P Williams
·Contributor

As if Hollywood didn’t need any more controversy in terms of racial tensions that have been bubbling within the industry; mistakenly identifying one actor for another isn’t ideal.

Credit: Rex
Mistaken identity: (from left) Kal Penn and Dev Patel. Credit Rex

That’s what, as reported by Variety, the Wall Street Journal’s film critic Joe Morgenstern did when reviewing new drama ‘Lion’, directed by Garth Davis and starring Brit actor Dev Patel alongside Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman.

In the printed review, Morgenstern made the pretty big error of mistaking Patel (who’s appeared in films such as ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and ‘Chappie’) for Kal Penn (known for the ‘Harold and Kumar’ movie franchise).

The review said that Patel “gives his richest performance since ‘The Namesake'”… only Patel didn’t feature in that film, it was Penn. Oops. Not to mention that Patel is, as many people in the UK will know, British after starting his career in TV show ‘Skins’, and Penn is from New Jersey, USA.

The error was quickly picked up online, much to people’s anger that the two actors had been mixed up. Twitter users came down pretty heavy on the error, bringing it to the attention of Penn who promptly retweeted the following complaint:

The Pultzer Prize-winning film critic branded the mistake a “dumb error” and the WSJ has since issued a correction, but it won’t do any good in terms of the already fractured film industry since racial inequalities for acting opportunities were highlighted with the #OscarsSoWhite row during last year’s Academy Awards. In short, the categories were full of white nominations and had virtually no black names (or any other ethnicities for that matter) represented.

However, this year could see a massive step forward in restoring some sort of balance, not only with Patel looking a strong favourite to compete in the Best Supporting Actor shortlist, but with a number of other movies that could prominently feature. ‘Fences’, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis is set to make waves with its drama that focuses on a man struggling to raise his family in 1950s America during times of tense race relations. ‘Hidden Figures’, a story about a group of African-American women working for NASA during its first successful space mission also looks to make a dent, which stars Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, and Janelle Monáe. There’s also the acclaimed ‘Moonlight’, starring Naomie Harris and Mahershala Ali andnd Nate Parker’s (controversially included) ‘The Birth of a Nation’.


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